Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Direction Home

By Dave Marsh

I found this while doing research on Dylan in 1963-64. I was writing a text for a book to be published next month as Forever Young, by Douglas Gilbert, the photographer who made some of the most amazing pictures of Dylan in the summer of '64.

Part of the context for what was happening was his 'renunciation' of politics. I went looking for what I could find about Dylan's apology to the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, for making a speech when he accepted the group's Tom Paine award, where he compared himself to Lee Harvey Oswald and attacked bald politicians for being bald, and bourgeois Negroes for wearing suits on the platform at the Great March on Washington, and generally pissed on liberalism. That's a remarkable statement of its own-based on the transcript, he's pretty clearly drunk and trying to avoid what he winds up doing, which is to tell these people a certain set of truths about themselves and the world.

But this apology letter is more amazing than that, by half, and I don't think I've ever read it before. I've seen a line or two quoted here and there but never the whole thing. (I'd love to be proved wrong about this so please let me know if so.)

As a piece of writing, I'd judge it better'n any of his liner notes pre-Bringing It All Back Home. As to content, the stuff about coming to New York (and growing up in Minnesota) directly foreshadows Chronicles, Volume One; I don't know anything else by him that does, certainly not this plainly. It's funny (man, he was funny then), but then it has to be because in a sense, he's being more self-revelatory than he is in Chronicles, even. ( See especially the passage about his moods.)

Most important, perhaps, it is not so much a farewell to protest politics but extremely political in a different way: His allegiance to the radicals of SNCC, and to the kids in the Venceremos Brigade, which I presume is what he means by “the folks who went to Cuba.” Note that he mentions Selma almost eighteen months before Bloody Sunday-a message to those who believe Dylan paid only lip service to his civil rights involvements. (Foreman spoke to me in late 2003 about having actively recruited him as an ally for SNCC and several SNCC people, notably Bernice Johnson Reagon and Cordell Reagon emphasized that Dylan remained close to them after his protest apostasy.)

The last reason finding this gave me joy, and it truly did, was that it showed Dylan acting out (in advance of its articulation) the principle over which SNCC 'broke'-that white people needed to be addressing the problems of white people in their communities, not trying to solve problems for black people in black communities. You can read a different version of the rest of his '60s career (at least that much) in this. Maybe of his whole career: Why he's sometimes seem unanchored and why he seems so completely on target and sometimes both at once.

Maybe I see it, a little bit, as Bob's ultimate link to Elvis: Bob able to articulate what Elvis never could say but always enacted. Something like that.

(The text and additional context is at the Corliss Lamont website; Lamont led the ECLC. See


from Bob Dylan

(Sent to the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee after he received the Tom Paine Award at the Bill of Rights dinner on December 13, 1963.)

to anybody it may concern...
mr lamont?
countless faces I do not know
an all fighters for good things that I can not see

when I speak of bald heads, I mean bald minds when I speak of the seashore, I mean the restin shore I dont know why I mentioned either of them

my life runs in a series of moods
in private an in personal ways, sometimes, I, myself, can change the mood I'm in t the mood I'd like t be in. when I walked thru the doors of the americana hotel, I needed to change my mood... for reasons inside myself.

I am a restless soul
perhaps wretched

it is hard to hear someone you dont know, say "this is what he meant t say" about something you just said

for no one can say what I meant t say
absolutely no one
at times I even cant
that was one of those times

my life is lived out daily in the places I feel most confortable in. these places are places where I am unknown an unstared at. I perform rarely, an when I do, there is a constant commotion burnin at my body an at my mind because of the attention aimed at me. instincts fight my emotions an fears fight my instincts...

I do not claim t be smart by the standards set up I dont even claim to be normal by the standards set up an I do not claim to know any kind of truth

but like an artist who puts his painting (after he's painted it) in front of thousands of unknown eyes, I also put my song there that way (after I've made it) it is as easy an as simple as that

I can not speak. I can not talk
I can only write an I can only sing
perhaps I should've sung a song
but that wouldn't a been right either
for I was given an award not to sing
but rather on what I have sung

no what I should've said was
"thank you very much ladies an gentlemen"
yes that is what I should've said
but unfortunatly... I didn't
an I didn't because I did not know

I thought something else was expected of me other than just sayin "thank you"
an I did not know what it was
it is a fierce heavy feeling
thinkin something is expected of you
but you dont know what exactly it is...
it brings forth a wierd form of guilt

I should've remembered
"I am BOB DYLAN an I dont have t speak
I dont have t say nothin if I dont wanna"
I didn't remember

I constantly asked myself while eatin supper "what should I say? what should I tell 'm?
everybody else is gonna tell 'm something"
but I could not answer myself
I even asked someone who was sittin nex t me an he couldn't tell me neither. my mind blew up an needless t say I had t get it back in its rightful shape (whatever that might be) an so I escaped from the big room... only t hear my name being shouted an the words "git in here git in here" overlappin with the findin of my hand being pulled across hundreds of tables with the lights turned on strong... guidin me back t where I tried t escape from "what should I say? what should I say?"
over an over again
oh God, I'd a given anything not t be there "shut the lights off at least"
people were coughin an my head was poundin an the sounds of mumble jumble sank deep in my skull from all sides of the room until I tore everything loose from my mind an said "just be honest, dylan, just be honest"

an so I found myself in front of the plank like I found myself once in the path of a car an I jumped...
jumped with all my bloody might
just tryin t get out a the way
but first screamin one last song

when I spoke of Lee Oswald, I was speakin of the times I was not speakin of his deed if it was his deed.
the deed speaks for itself
but I am sick
so sick
at hearin "we all share the blame" for every church bombing, gun battle, mine disaster, poverty explosion, an president killing that comes about.
it is so easy t say "we" an bow our heads together I must say "I" alone an bow my head alone for it is I alone who is livin my life I have beloved companions but they do not eat nor sleep for me an even they must say "I"
yes if there's violence in the times then there must be violence in me I am not a perfect mute.
I hear the thunder an I cant avoid hearin it once this is straight between us, it's then an only then that we can say "we" an really mean it... an go on from there t do something about it

When I spoke of Negroes
I was speakin of my Negro friends
from harlem
an Jackson
selma an birmingham
atlanta pittsburg, an all points east
west, north, south an wherever else they might happen t be.
in rat filled rooms
an dirt land farms
schools, dimestores, factories
pool halls an street corners
the ones that dont own ties
but know proudly they dont have to
not one little bit
they dont have t be like they naturally aint t get what they naturally own no more 'n anybody else does it only gets things complicated an leads people into thinkin the wrong things black skin is black skin It cant be covered by clothes an made t seem acceptable, well liked an respectable...
t teach that or t think that just tends the flames of another monster myth...
it is naked black skin an nothin else
if a Negro has t wear a tie t be a Negro then I must cut off all ties with who he has t do it for.
I do not know why I wanted t say this that nite.
perhaps it was just one of the many things in my mind born from the confusion of my times

when I spoke about the people that went t Cuba I was speakin of the free right t travel I am not afraid t see things I challenge seein things I am insulted t the depths of my soul when someone I dont know commands that I cant see this an gives me mysterious reasons why I'll get hurt if I do see it... tellin me at the same time about goodness an badness in people that again I dont know...
I've been told about people all my life
about niggers, kikes, wops, bohunks, spicks, chinks, an I been told how they eat, dress, walk, talk, steal, rob, an kill but nobody tells me how any of 'm feels... nobody tells me how any of 'm cries or laughs or kisses. I'm fed up with most newspapers, radios, tv an movies an the like t tell me. I want now t see an know for myself...
an I accepted that award for all others like me who want t see for themselves... an who dont want that God-given right taken away stolen away or snuck out from beneath them yes a travel ban in the south would protect Americans more, I'm sure, than the one t Cuba but in all honesty I would want t crash that one too do you understand?
do you really understand?
I mean I want t see. I want t see all I can everyplace there is t see it my life carries eyes an they're there for one reason the reason t see thru them

my country is the Minnesota-North Dakota territory that's where I was born an learned how t walk an it's where I was raised an went t school... my youth was spent wildly among the snowy hills an sky blue lakes, willow fields an abandoned open pit mines. contrary t rumors, I am very proud of where I'm from an also of the many blood streams that run in my roots. but I would not be doing what I'm doing today if I hadn't come t New York. I was given my direction from new york. I was fed in new york. I was beaten down by new york an I was picked up by new york. I was made t keep going on by new york. I'm speakin now of the people I've met who were strugglin for their lives an other peoples'
lives in the thirties an forties an the fifties an I look t their times I reach out t their times an, in a sense, am jealous of their times t think I have no use for "old" people is a betrayin thought those that know me know otherwise those that dont, probably're baffled like a friend of mine, jack elliott, who says he was reborn in Oklahoma, I say I was reborn in New York...
there is no age limit stuck on it
an no one is more conscious of it than I

yes it is a fierce feeling, knowin something you dont know about's expected of you. but it's worse if you blindly try t follow with explodin words (for that's all they can do is explode) an the explodin words're misunderstood I've heard I was misunderstood

I do not apologize for myself nor my fears I do not apologize for any statement which led some t believe "oh my God! I think he's the one that really shot the president"

I am a writer an a singer of the words I write I am no speaker nor any politician an my songs speak for me because I write them in the confinement of my own mind an have t cope with no one except my own self. I dont have t face anyone with them until long after they're done

no I do not apologize for being me nor any part of me

but I can return what is rightfully yours at any given time. I have stared at it for a long while now. it is a beautiful award. there is a kindness t Mr Paine's face an there is almost a sadness in his smile. his trials show thru his eyes. I know really not much about him but somehow I would like t sing for him. there is a gentleness t his way.
yes thru all my flounderin wildness, I am, when it comes down to it, very proud that you have given this t me. I would hang it high, an let my friends see in it what I see, but I also would give it back if you wish. There is no sense in keepin it if you've made a mistake in givin it. for it means more'n any store bought thing an it'd only be cheatin t keep it

also I did not know that the dinner was a donation dinner. I did not know you were gonna ask anyone for money. an I understand you lost money on the masterful way I expressed myself... then I am in debt t you not a money debt but rather a moral debt if you'd a sold me something, then it'd be a money debt but you sold nothin, so it is a moral debt an moral debts're worse 'n money debts for they have t be paid back in whatever is missin an in this case, it's money

please send me my bill
an I shall pay it
no matter what the sum
I have a hatred of debts an want t be even in the best way I can you needn't think about this, for money means very little t me

so then

I'll return once again t the road

I cant tell you why other people write, but I write in order to keep from going insane.
my head, I expect'd turn inside out if my hands were t leave me.

but I hardly ever talk about why I write. an I scarcely ever think about it. the thought of it is too alarmin

an I never ever talk about why I speak
but that's because I never do it. this is the first time I am talkin about it... an I pray the last the thought of doing it again is too scary

ha! it's a scary world
but only once in a while huh?

I love you all up there an the ones I dont love, it's only because I do not know them an have not seen them... God it's so hard hatin. it's so tiresome... an after hatin something to death, it's never worth the bother an trouble

out! out! brief candle
life's but an open window
an I must jump back thru it now

see yuh
respectfully an unrespectfully

(sgd) bob dylan

Thursday, September 15, 2005

How a Chicana Became a Jersey Girl

By Susan Martinez

(Read at “Glory Days,” a Bruce Springsteen symposium, September 10, 2005)

The first time I heard about Bruce Springsteen was a gray afternoon in 1974. I was a teenager, transplanted to New Jersey from California years earlier when my parents divorced, and I was visiting my Uncle Stan in Monmouth County across the state. Summer had passed, and it was too cool to swim in the ocean, so we went for a drive.

Uncle Stan drove a voluptuous 1950s Mercedes Adenauer limo which floated on fat white-wall tires. It had a leather interior with braided swags dangling on the doors, and between the driver and passenger was a window which rolled up if you cranked a little silver handle. He purchased the car from a widow he'd interviewed for UPI Radio where he was a reporter. The woman only drove around Central Park on weekends, and since she liked him, he got the car cheap. He loved the theatre of driving that limo, New York Press plates on the front and a chauffer's cap cocked on his head. We called him Stanley and in a fake British accent he answered yes m'am and no m'am, poking at our just-short-a-paycheck life, but we were still riding in a used car.

That afternoon we drove to Asbury Park. We walked along the boardwalk, and though the wood was solid under foot the city gave an air of imminent collapse. Uncle Stan drove some more, pointing out scars of the riots, then he pulled the Mercedes to the curb and turned off the engine. We were a ridiculous sight in that beautiful limo surrounded by so much decay. We would have attracted attention if there'd been anybody around. There wasn't.

Uncle Stan tapped on the window between us and I rolled it down so he could speak. He used his real voice -- not his radio voice, and not Stanley -- a father figure intent on making an impression. "I want you to be able to say you were here," he said, pointing to the nightclub outside. "This place might not be here by the time you're old enough to go inside. There's a guy who sings here, you'll hear him some day and it'll change your life." I looked around. I looked at the Stone Pony, at Asbury Park. I figured the music must be sad.

That was all he said. He didn't share any music, he didn't even describe it but I remember the optimism in his voice: if these buildings fell it wouldn't matter, something more significant would stand. Asbury Park had a second fortune teller that day.
Martinez is my married name.

It's also my birth name, a gift from my father, a Chicano son raised in the West where Spaniards brought a second language long before English arrived.

My father met my white mother on her first teaching job -- California sounded exotic, she laughs, but she landed in Bakersfield and married my father against her father’s wishes. My parents were organizers and teachers and fought against poverty and racism every day. Battles raged inside our home as well until mom fled across the country to live with my grandparents in rural Hunterdon County NJ.

Uncle Stan is part of my extended family, not a blood relative but there's no difference. The night my family escaped my father's fists, Uncle Stan met us at the airport in the UPI helicopter. We were exhausted after the getaway and the long flight from California, but instead of whisking us home, he flew us around Manhattan. We flew between skyscrapers and circled the glowing head of Lady Liberty before landing on the roof of the UPI building and driving to New Jersey. The city sparkled at night. I needed to see such a beautiful view, overwhelmed by the sadness that I was never going back though I desperately needed the safety of a new home. I was an immigrant in my own country; it would be years before I returned to the west.

My best friend wrote from California: "Where are you? Where's New Jersey? Are you coming back?" She couldn't find my town on any map.

"West of New York, north of Philadelphia," I wrote back. "We have a beach here but a different ocean..." with a soundtrack borrowed from California except one night a year when Atlantic City mythologized beautiful women with long legs and flat bodies. On regular days no television covered our New Jersey news, our ordinary victories, our losses. We didn't have our own weather -- we extrapolated snowstorms and summer heat from New York or Philadelphia and adjusted for the crook of the Delaware River.

I searched for my soul in that mapless place. My Spanish teacher couldn't pronounce my father's name and I became invisible in my white skin. The only Spanish influence in town was the Catholic church, a red-tiled-roof adobe with rough-hewn beams. I wasn't raised with religion but I begged to be Catholic until one day my mother asked "Why on earth?..." I pointed to the adobe and said "That's where they hide the tacos." I look back now and it seems funny.

Instead, my mother sated me with occasional trips to a Mexican restaurant on Route 22 where mariachi serenaded the patrons on weekends. They'd circle the room, catch my eyes from a table or two before surrounding us with their cologne and sombreros. I asked for the same song each time, about all I knew in Spanish. -- and as the language ran out and before it became uncomfortable, they'd play.

The bass of the guitarron was like an earthquake under the other strings. Guitar notes tumbled over each other, the horns soared overhead. The voices and instruments ricocheted off the paver floor and the tile-topped tables, passion coming from every direction, arrows aimed at my head and heart lifting me someplace brighter.

Pinned to the back wall near the cash register was a floral shawl, the most elegant, feminine thing I'd ever seen. As we left the restaurant, I'd finger the fringe tassles as if they were threads of my own life's cloth.
A year after my trip to the Stone Pony, the local gift shop began racking a few albums -- mostly country or crooner closeouts, but sometimes some just-past-prime pop or rock, and then miraculously one day a brand new copy of the just-released Born to Run appeared. I stashed it in the back of the bin so no one would find it, and I saved my lunch money for a month until I purchased it, my first album. I carried it home in both hands, and as soon as I dropped the needle I knew this was who Uncle Stan told me about.

Bruce Springsteen sang about places I knew and lives I recognized, and the music was anything but sad. Those songs were like photographs. We had lovers and heroes and dark highways down which people disappeared, sometimes returning only in whispers. He sang with love and honesty and his heart on fire, hungry for someplace better. He sang how I felt: on fire and longing for something else.

My best friend stopped asking where I lived. She stopped asking if I was coming back.
Born to Run described my world but another dimension of my life opened when I heard "Rosalita", a gift on my 18th birthday. The opening chords hit me with all the passion and energy of the mariachi in that little restaurant, the guitars rumbling with the keyboards, the sax swimming in a Mexican chorus. Every time it seemed the song might end, it'd rev up another notch.

For the first time, I heard my own story as a latina and for the first time, what I was was good, desirable even, and worth taking a stand for despite my boyfriends' white mothers waiting anxiously at the window. The come-on turned to take-a-stand was my bridge to a new place. I stopped hating who I was. I stopped starving myself in order to change my curva body and I celebrated the torque in my hips. I corrected anyone who mispronounced my father's name and claimed it as my own. I saw my mother's life with my father's life and I understood how their struggle against racism created me. I heard my life in “Rosalita” and I learned to walk tall.

“Rosalita” is a song of longing, fucking, stepping to adulthood, defiance and tearing down the artificial boundaries that keep people worlds apart even as they hold hands. Bruce has said that "Rosalita" was his musical autobiography. How can a white man and a shy Chicana teen make the same claim of one song? When the song is a door and the singer offers encouragement to walk through it, and they do, it is freedom for them both. It affirms the single hope that gives us courage to change: love.

Springsteen could have been asking Wendy or Sandy or Janey or Mary to go to California, but his world opened for a senorita. He wanted Rosie in his world and he wanted her to walk through the door because “doors are for winners.” (And Uncle Stan didn't predict it, but I found love in the back of the cafe where guitars played all night and all day.)

A few years after that fateful day in Asbury Park, Uncle Stan left for another family. I hadn't seen him in almost two decades when he visited me in California recently. He is suffering the effects of end-stage mouth cancer, which was in remission but soon returned with a vengeance. We arrange lunch. I'm anxious to see him, and I know this is probably the last time we'll see each other.

He's returning from 2 weeks in Asia visiting jazz clubs with a series of exotically named women he met in online chat groups. At one point he blushes like he's a younger brother, "I can't believe I'm telling you this!" then continues anyway. The cancer treatments have cost him his teeth and jaw but he still has his appetite for living.

He has an important question for me: what am I writing? He was the person who suggested I put my own words in the little blank books I made when I was 5, just arrived from California. I tell him some of my adventures, I tell him I'm writing about that day in Asbury Park and he laughs at how much I remember. "I never did like rock and roll much," he says, "I'm a jazz man. I was sneakin' in to Birdland when I was a teenager." Then we chuckle. He's always been a sax player, maybe he meant I should hear Clarence...

I have a question for him; he braces, probably afraid I'm going to ask why he left. He and I are kin in that we'd rather regret the things we do, than the things we didn't do.

"Where did you hide when the terrorists attacked?" I want to know. He was one of the journalists in the athlete's compound during the Munich Olympics terrorist attack; I've seen the scars from his escape over barbed wire, I've heard his radio reports, but I can't remember the rest. He tells how he hid with the Puerto Rican athletes across the hall from the gunmen, listening to everything he could through the door without drawing attention. That's how he's lived, even in danger: pressing as close as he could.

After lunch I drive him to the top of the Berkeley Hills for the panoramic view of the bay and the ocean, then I drive down the steepest road I know. He's traveled twice the speed of sound but this hill makes him giddy. This time I'm the chauffer, and I point out local landmarks, show him where lemon trees grow next to palm trees grow next to redwoods on my street. As I leave him at the train station, I ask one more question. "Where haven't you traveled, where else do you want to go?" He doesn't hesitate. "Greece, and Italy," he says. "Somehow I never got assignments there." Then he adds, "And here. I want to come back here to California."
Some people are beacons in our darkness. They inspire us, teach us to walk tall. They show us our fate is the same but our paths are not, and they illuminate the difference between living and not-dying. Parking in front of the Stone Pony was just a plot device in the scheme of my life.

To Uncle Stan, and Bruce Springsteen, thanks for the ride.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"We Were Abandoned": Larmes de Colere in New Orleans

By Bill Glahn

We carried you in our arms
On Independence Day
And now you'd throw us all aside
And put us on our way.

("Tears of Rage," Bob Dylan & Richard Manuel)

Mike West is Australian born, English raised, and, until Katrina hit, a resident of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward for the last 12 years. West's home recording studio now sits in 8 feet of water. West is one of the lucky ones. He, wife Katie Euliss, and their two children were on tour when the hurricane landed. He had insurance on his gear and a community of friends in Wichita to help his family establish a new home.

Although West states that economics played some part in why he chose the Lower Ninth Ward for his home, it is the sense of community that existed there that was the overwhelming factor.

For his 1999 album, 16 Songs For Drill and Banjo, West wrote a song called "After The Flood," which not only describes the events that would unfold during the flood's immediate aftermath, but also what is playing out in the refugee camps set up to care for the victims.

Now the mayor has saved the city
You and I will have to save ourselves

("After the Flood," Mike West)

West's song is not so much prescient, but a reflection of what everybody in the city of New Orleans already knew. While President Bush and FEMA director Michael Brown made claims that "this flood caught us by surprise," that was simply not true. And now, Mayor Ray Nagin has stated that those remaining in New Orleans will be forcefully evacuated to shelters to join earlier refugees.

We're told that the folks who wish to stay will be denied food, water and electricity "for their own good." Not mentioned is that they are also being denied the preventative shots that the armed forces, rescue workers, and eventually the rebuilders of New Orleans are receiving before they even enter the city. Shots that would protect them, to some degree, from the same illnesses that the government says they are in danger of contracting if they stay. This may turn out being the biggest and most shameful forced migration since the Trail of Tears.

On Monday, September 5, I undertook a journey to Red Cross processing centers and refugee camps in Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee in search of musicians. I didn't have a real grasp on the stories I wanted to write. But being primarily a music writer, I wanted to journal the stories of displaced musicians. How has this catastrophe effected them? How would it affect their art? By Friday, I had had enough.

I could not turn the tape recorder off on folks that were not musicians. There was eagerness by all of them to tell their stories. The sense of community that West talks about was well in evidence. But so was anger. "We were abandoned," was the common refrain. The answers to the question of why they didn't evacuate before the storm were multitude. But they can be summed up by Chris Rock's comments during the Shelter From the Storm concert. "There are people who can afford hotels. And then there are people who work in them."

Now those people live in shelters. Close quarters with armed guards at the gate. At some of the shelters they are required to wear wristbands to identify themselves as "residents."

Access to the folks in line at Red Cross processing centers was easy. There were long lines waiting for hours for the centers to open. The Red Cross seemed to be treating this situation as just another workday with standard work hours. On the day I was in Memphis, 3,000 refugees arrived. The Red Cross processed 600. Access to people in the shelters was more difficult.
There are gun-toting law enforcement officers at the entrances. To go inside required hours of dealing with administrators, coordinators, lawyers, managers, etc. Don't get me wrong. I believe that when you want to enter someone's home, you need to knock first and ask permission. And as much as these shelters are not "home," they are the closest thing to it that the refugees have. Except that in EVERY case, no one asked them if they wanted a visitor. That decision was up to someone else. It was like being blocked by a landlord when you wanted to visit a friend in an apartment complex. Or, on a different level, by the warden when you wanted to visit a prisoner.

I had intended to stay on the road for a full week. But by Friday I was weak with a virus in my body and a heart full of venom. I returned home to begin the transcribing and writing process. That will begin tomorrow.

I had dinner with a dear friend last night (Saturday) who sometimes serves as an unofficial editor for me before I submit articles. Kathy has a way of pulling things out of me that are crucial to the story. After an hour and a half of talking about the week's experience, she asked me "How did the trip affect YOU?" At which point, I broke down in tears. In public. Unable to shut off the faucet. Unable to maintain composure. Barely able to answer.

"I don't know how to express the amount of anger I feel. And I don't know that if I could, who would ever publish it."
During the week I had listened to countless stories. They came from a lot of people who's culture and heritage were, for the most part, alien to me. Poor black folks with French surnames and gold teeth. Poor white folks with French surnames and gold teeth. French-tinged accents that were sometimes difficult to decipher.

Mike West told me a story about one of his neighbors. His neighbor is white and his family had lived in the Lower Ninth Ward for generations. His neighbor was an avowed bigot, the result of ingrained racism passed down through the decades. But at the end of the workday, it was common to see his friend sitting on his porch sharing a beer with his black neighbors. "These are the people he trusts."

It wasn't all that uncommon during this catastrophe to see reporters lose their composure. During the past few days, however, things have shifted back to standard operating procedure. For the major media, that means to point blame but protect the system. It benefits them.

The White House wants reporters to refer to refugees as "displaced persons." "We don't have refugees in the United States." Bullshit. These folks are refugees.

"We were abandoned" is not a reflection of individual blame. It is a condemnation of the whole system. I inherited my tears from these folks. They were not tears of sorrow. They were not tears of pity. To apply the French twist to it, they were larmes de colere. Tears of rage.

This story first appeared on the CounterPunch Web site,